Anishinabek Nation Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare.   – Photo by Monica Lister

Anishinabek Nation Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare. – Photo by Monica Lister

TORONTO – Anishinabek Nation leaders have told provincial government officials that their children in care deserve the right to their culture.

“We need to leave here today with long and short term goals in place,” said Deputy Grand Council Chief Glen Hare, part of a delegation who met with Teresa Piruzza, Minister of Children and Youth Services.  “We need to see a nation-to-nation approach where leaders from both sides work together on solutions in the interest of our children. The Anishinabek Nation has requested that the Minister respect our culture and our identity. Our children are our responsibility and Ontario needs to understand that.

“Our kids deserve the right to their culture, their biological family and to their home community – that connection is an important part of their identity and when they miss out we all miss out,” said Hare.

Chiefs told Minister Piruzza that the Children’s Aid Society has to accept some responsibility for disrupting the family unit in First Nation communities.

“Anishinabek culture is centered around our children,” said Lake Huron Regional Chief Isadore Day,Wiindawtegowinini.  “We strive to protect the future for the next generation. This goal can only be achieved if we take direct control of Child Welfare.

“It is the intent of Anishinabek First Nations to provide options and next steps on jurisdiction – moving beyond the current situation where other governments and their agencies claim authority over our children. This meeting presents an opportunity to set the record straight: jurisdiction must be recognized and built into our nation building process. We remain optimistic that we may finally establish a commitment from Ontario.”

The Anishinabek Nation has developed its own Child Welfare Law after several years of consultation with citizens and leadership with the goal of transitioning of responsibility and services from provincial agencies to First Nation authority.

Giimaa Duke Peltier, Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, saw the meeting as an opportunity to set the record straight.

“The fact is, Ontario and its agencies don’t belong in First Nation communities and they definitely don’t belong in the homes of First Nation families,” said Peltier. “Ontario must recognize First Nation organizations and begin the process of transferring full and capable responsibility to First Nations for First Nation children.”

Minister Piruzza committed to working with First Nations and acknowledged the concerns of First Nations surrounding the health and wellbeing of First Nation children. In her closing comments the Minister stated that Ontario would work with First Nations in finding solutions together.